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Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda

Sorting the wheat from the chaff in B.C. Politics

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

The Pros and Cons of the 2018 B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Today (First Past the Post, FPTP) vs Proportional Representation (PR)

Proportional Representation - the Real Agenda thanks to John Winter

Referendum Ballot with FPTP (First Past the Post) Option Selected



'The Big Lie'

“In the coming weeks, British Columbians will be asked to vote in a very important referendum on changing how we elect our MLAs, not an insignificant initiative. We’ve rejected proportional representation twice before. It’s essential we do so a third time. I support our current voting system, which is simple, produces stable governments and is one of the institutional pillars that all our successes stand on. On the first question on the ballot, I urge you to vote in favour of First Past the Post (FPTP), option one. The alternative is to jump into the unknown. Three versions of Proportional Representation (PR) are on offer. Two have never been used or tried anywhere in the world and the third is presently used in just four countries. That third option is called Mixed Member Proportional (MMP). It was soundly rejected in BC by the hard-working Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in 2005 because of the damage it does to local representation.

I point this out because there is a big lie in this referendum campaign. It underscores everything proponents of electoral reform say. The claims that PR jurisdictions out-perform ones like ours, or that PR improves voter turn-out or that the environment fares better under their preferred electoral system are not comparing apples to apples. Such claims stand on a foundation of misdirection, lies and obfuscations. That is because the electoral systems that inform the research findings are not even on the ballot in BC this fall.

The Yes side says PR is used in more than 80 countries. In truth, only four countries actually use any of the forms that appear on BC’s referendum ballot. The rest use some form of “list” PR. That means parties make lists of candidates to be elected, and seats are allocated based on the overall proportion of votes. Over 90% of the countries held up as examples use electoral systems BC isn’t even voting on. Citizens of countries that do use list system are becoming very uncomfortable with this form of election. The evidence is clear on at least two fronts.

First, radical parties of the left and the right are taking advantage of the low threshold to win a seat. They seize on voters’ fears and frustrations and run single-issue, municipal-style campaigns based on emotion, ignoring vast swathes of policy. You can see this today in Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, even Italy, which has had 61 governments in 67 years under such systems.

Secondly, countries are constantly fiddling with their electoral processes to try and make a flawed system work better. New Zealand has recently passed a bill that would strip MPs of their seat if they switch parties or their leader kicks them out of the party. Germany is trying for the third time to introduce a vote threshold to minimize small parties. The second question on our ballots in the fall referendum reflects the dense academic nature of this attempt to fix proportional representation.

Let’s look at the one option on the ballot used in the real world - MMP. Under this model 40% of the elected members are from party lists. This means constituencies will be at least 40% larger, with a real impact in the north and interior of BC. For example, the provincial riding of Stikine already large, if increased by 40% to allow for party lists, would be larger than New Zealand! Taking systems in use in small countries and transferring them to BC in a social experiment disenfranchises people outside the Lower Mainland. There is nothing fair about that. Local representation is cast aside.

On the No side, we know how important a local MLA is. Our current system, First Past the Post (FPTP) puts local representation first, where it should be. Most countries which use FPTP are or were members of the British Commonwealth. It is part of our heritage, part of who we are as Canadians, mirroring our Parliamentary traditions.

MMP is used for parliamentary elections in four countries including Germany and New Zealand. In Germany, it took almost six months to form a coalition government after last September's election, and is growing ever more fragile. Germany’s Bundestag is now home to seven parties, including radical parties on both the right and the left. Proportional representation amplifies their impact by giving them legitimacy and resources to advance their extremist agendas.

New Zealand recently switched electoral systems to MMP. It’s not going well. The current government is a hodge-podge of the Labour Party, the Greens and an anti-immigrant party called New Zealand First. The latter two members didn’t elect a single member in constituency elections by getting the most votes. They leveraged their seven percent of the popular vote into four cabinet posts, including that of Deputy Prime Minister.

This is the big lie.

PR promoters claim that proportional representation is the solution to all our electoral woes and point to its widespread use around the world. The truth is that the options we’ve been given are complex, esoteric and used in very few places with little experience to point to. We’ve rejected changing our system in referendums twice this century for very good reasons. How many more times do we have to go to this well? Another lie is in the details. All three options on the ballot leave the important details, including maps and the number of MLAs until after the referendum. It’s only then the NDP/Green marriage of convenience will carefully choose those to favour their electoral prospects. This referendum is a desperate move to give the Green party a permanent platform. If they can elect three people in a small corner of the province, they deserve three seats.

With apologies to Churchill, FPTP is the worst electoral system, except for all the others. Vote to keep our current system, and ignore the lies, vote to keep the status quo.”

by John Winter, Past President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce, October 2018
 

The new guide from Elections B.C. doesn't tell us that, based on historical voting patterns, our future under proportional representation will consist entirely of successive minority governments, dickering for power through backroom deals with splinter groups. It doesn't tell us that the balance of power may be in the hands of any radical bunch that can get five per cent of the popular vote. It also doesn't tell us that all future provincial elections will be fought and decided in Vancouver and Victoria, while the rest of the province is relegated to insignificance. Pro-rep guarantees all three outcomes. Count me as a decided 'No! Clare Stevens, October 2018


QuotaBills
A week is a long time in politics. - Harold Wilson

In politics nothing is contemptible. - Benjamin Disraeli

Television is democracy at its ugliest. - Paddy Chayefsky

Voters want a fraud they can believe in. - Will Durst

Information is the currency of democracy. - Unknown

Man is not free unless government is limited. - Ronald Reagan

Intelligence has nothing to do with politics. - Londo Molari

Turn on to politics, or politics will turn on you. - Ralph Nader

I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons. - Will Rogers

I greet you in the name of peace, democracy, and freedom. - Nelson Mandela

We live in a world in which politics has replaced philosophy. - Martin L. Gross

A government is the only known vessel that leaks from the top. - James Reston

Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa. - Allen Ginsberg

Idealism is the despot of thought, just as politics is the despot of will. - Mikhail Bakunin

Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. - John Kenneth Galbraith

To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government. - Mark Twain

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. - George Bernard Shaw

Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business. - Tom Robbins

I am on your Walk of Fame in Toronto. My sense of humour is Canadian. But I can't vote. - Donald Sutherland

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. - James Bovard

Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity. - Irving Kristol

The irony of the matter is that the future generations do not have a vote. In effect, we hold their proxy. - Charles J Hitch

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. - John Kenneth Galbraith

There is not Communism or Marxism, but representative democracy and social justice in a well-planned economy. - Fidel Castro

Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism. - Claude McKay

The only security men can have for their political liberty, consists in keeping their money in their own pockets. - Lysander Spooner

I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don't believe anything the government tells me. Nothing. Zero. - George Carlin

In politics it is necessary either to betray one's country or the electorate. I prefer to betray the electorate. - Charles de Gaulle

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician's objective. Election and power are. - Cal Thomas

It's especially hard if the government is not providing services, or is even conducting ethnic cleansing against you. - Paul Harvey

Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under blackshirt government. - Lord Rothermere

A democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates. - Gore Vidal

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. - Reinhold Niebuhr

It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen. - George MacDonald

Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book. - Ronald Reagan

We're at a point in history where everyone needs to pay attention to politics. Too much is at stake for us to be apathetic. - Kevin Costner

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay? It's, like, incredible. - Donald Trump

Our future cannot depend on the government alone. The ultimate solutions lie in the attitudes and the actions of the American people. - Joe Biden

When one may pay out over two million dollars to presidential and Congressional campaigns, the U.S. government is virtually up for sale. - John W. Gardner

Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments. - Isaac Asimov


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